The Minimalist Guide to a Long Distance Move

Have I ever mentioned that I love to move? Crazy, I know—but ever since college I’ve barely been able to stay in one place for a year before I’m itching to pack up again. When I was tied to a certain location, I’d use architecture as an excuse—as in, let’s see what it’d be like to live in an old Victorian, or a high rise, or an industrial loft. Or I’d neighborhood-hop, so as to experience living in different parts of a city. But really, I just liked to move. :)

Many of you are familiar with the BIG moves of my recent past—over to London, and then back to the US a few years later. Well, I just did it again—this time from one coast of the US to the other. Having a 3-year-old made it a little more challenging…but you know what? It was still very doable, and dare I say, kind of fun. So I thought I’d share some survival techniques with anyone else considering such an endeavor.

1. Spend at least a moment considering the extreme: selling or otherwise disbursing of all your stuff and starting over.

A long-distance move can be expensive; not just $$ expensive, but $$$$$ expensive. If you’re not particularly attached to your stuff, or it’s not all that nice or valuable to begin with, give some serious thought to leaving it all behind. For the price of transporting it, you may be able to replace it with stuff you like better. This strategy can also generate a tremendous amount of goodwill amongst your family, friends, and neighbors. We have a friend who still thanks us for the iPod speakers we gave him before our overseas move.

We really wanted to do this, and even went so far as to itemize replacement costs. And if we didn’t have a child, we would have made it happen. But the cost and hassle (and in some cases, impossibility) of replacing her favorite books, toys, and other possessions outweighed the benefits. And after uprooting the poor girl from the only life she’d ever known, we felt that maintaining some familiarity would help ease the transition. She seemed genuinely surprised and delighted when we unpacked the same stuff—“that’s OUR couch!!!”—into our new apartment.

2. DIY to whatever extent possible.

Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment, but I feel that if I’ve accumulated stuff, it’s my responsibility to pack it up and schlep it around. (Call it my penance for possession, similar to why I use eBay.) I’m usually a proponent of rent-your-own-moving-truck—but outfitting one with a car seat for a 3000+ mile drive was not an option. Therefore, we opted for the next best alternative: a pack your own POD (portable on demand storage container), which we then had shipped across the country. Above all, avoid a full-service mover: not only is it pricey, but you won’t get the valuable, eye-opening, and yes, potentially uncomfortable experience of confronting and culling your own possessions.

3. Choose a transport vessel that is ridiculously small for your current amount of stuff.

This will vary according to your circumstances. If you’re single or a childfree couple, it might be your car or a small U-Haul trailer. If you’re a family moving from a 3+ bedroom house, think a POD the size of a walk-in closet. If you don’t panic and break out into a cold sweat at the sight of it, it’s probably too big. ;-) Think of it as packing for a trip, and your pod/trailer/moving truck is a big suitcase. Your goal is to pack light, and take only the essentials.

4. Halve your stuff.

If a die-hard minimalist family like us can find 50% of stuff to get rid of, so can you. It’s easiest if you group everything into categories: if you have 100 books, take only 50; if you have 10 shirts, take 5; if you have 8 pairs of shoes, take 4. The cool part is that you’ll end up with only your very favorite stuff—and you’ll have a wonderful excuse to get rid of the rest (especially those gifts, heirlooms, and ill-conceived purchases that can be so hard to declutter under normal circumstances).

5. Halve it again.

Yes, really. You’re in the groove now, so you might as well keep going—who knows when such an opportunity will come along again (and if you’ve chosen a small enough moving container, you won’t have much choice). This round will get you down to the minimalist Holy Grail, the glorious 20-25% of things you actually use.

6. Pack it up.

You’ve decluttered, and decluttered, and decluttered some more—yet some items will still have slipped through the cracks. It’s in the midst of packing that you will wonder why you have spent a small fortune on bubble paper to wrap a $6 set of Ikea glasses, or spent half a day finding a box to accommodate an odd-sized and seldom-used piece of hobby equipment. These are the enlightening moments that long-distance moves are made of—and another compelling reason to DIY.

7. Reconsider option #1.

Do you really want to drag all this stuff across the country?

8. Run out of time and/or packing materials.

My husband and I tend to be spontaneous, and only gave ourselves 3 weeks to orchestrate our latest move. But it doesn’t matter—we could have had 3 months (or 3 years, for that matter), and everything would still have come down to the wire. That’s when all those decluttering decisions you couldn’t make will be made for you—because in those final moments, the preservation of a cheese grater pales in comparison to getting the padlock on the POD before the truck arrives to collect it.

9. Question your sanity.

Everyone else will, so you may as well join in the fun. Particularly so if you are decamping with no job prospects, family, or housing at your destination, and with no more compelling reason to move than “walkability” or “weather.” It’s a herculean effort, and the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow may not be so obvious to the casual observer (or even, at times, to you).

10. Do it anyway.

Sometimes you just have to follow your heart.

From the moment we landed here, I knew we were home. I have never been so enchanted with the place where I live. I’ve spent the last few weeks wandering the streets, starry-eyed and lovestruck, checking out the playground scene with Plumblossom, the food scene with my husband, and the housing scene with our realtor (yikes to the latter, and a good thing we saved some coin on the move!). Our apartment is temporary, and another short-distance move is in the future; but for the first time, I actually have the desire to put down some roots and stay awhile.

11. Enjoy a vacation from your stuff.

After endless deliberations, decisions, and debates over your stuff, you probably won’t want to see it again for awhile. Enjoy a blissful separation while you await your POD (or if you’re road-tripping, while it’s stashed in your moving truck). We flew to our destination and camped out in our empty apartment for a week, eating on a picnic blanket and sleeping on the floor; and I can honestly say that, after all that packing, I was so tired of our stuff they could have dropped our POD in the sea for all I was concerned.

12. Unpack and unwind.

Of course, the time will come when you have to deal with those boxes on the receiving end—but if you’ve followed the advice above, you’ll be unpacked in a matter of hours (instead of days, weeks, or even months!). The excess will have been culled, and you’ll actually need everything you’ve brought. You’ll feel light, liberated, and ready for a fresh start in your new location. The blood, sweat, and tears will all be worth it, and—as for that 75% you decluttered—I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t miss a thing.

Have you made a long-distance move (or do you fantasize about one)? Tell us your experiences in the Comments!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

62 comments to The Minimalist Guide to a Long Distance Move

  • Linda Sand

    When we moved the last time it was from an RV with all built-in furniture to an empty apartment. We picked out our style of furniture from IKEA and had them deliver it to the apartment. Easiest move we ever made.

    When we moved my mother-in-law into a memory care facility we put her bedspread on the facility’s bed before she arrived. When she walked into her new room she said, “There’s my bed.” It’s amazing how little it can take to make us feel at home.

  • Rebecca N

    We moved from Nebraska to Virginia 2 years ago and rented the biggest U-Haul we could. What a headache and expense! If we ever move again, we are selling most of our stuff and only moving the things we love and that can’t be replaced!

  • Gail

    33 years ago we moved 700 kilometres and had company paid for packer/movers.
    On arrival at our new place the packer was ‘kindly’ unpacking my very large collection of empty glass jars, (I used to make preserves) and other kitchen items. She said they all had to be checked for damage.
    There was probably 200 items covering every spare space, even the stove. There was absolutely no space to even make a cup of tea, let alone prepare a simple meal. I was so annoyed. I vowed to never allow that to happen again and removed most of the jars and I abandoned making preserves.
    Eight years ago, for our last move, we packed and moved our precious items, removalists did the heavy items, beds, etc. and it was a relatively smooth shift.
    Peace, Gail, Australia

  • Sandy

    Yay!!! So good to hear from you, Miss Minimalist!

    I’ve never made any long distance moves, but from the time I went to college in 2000 until I moved into my current home in 2010, I moved 7 or 8 times (from dorm to dorm, back to my parents’ home after graduation, then into an apartment of my own, then got married and moved again, and moved the final time when we bought our house.) When I think of all the CRAP I packed up and moved over and over again it makes me cringe. NEVER again will I do that. Sometimes I wished I could go back and do college all over again with the minimalist mindset I now have. I would have saved so much money and energy! I used to have two large book shelves filled to the brim with books and an antique trunk full of keepsakes. My books are now pared down to less than 30 of my favorites and my important keepsakes fit into a small plastic box about the size of two shoe boxes combined.

  • Awurrlu

    Lovely to see a post from you! I adore the others as well.

    About 24 years ago, I made a long distance move, but I didn’t have much since I was just out of college. It was a good opportunity, though, to donate and recycle things I really didn’t need: old yearbooks, kitchen implements and dishes, etc. I basically moved with my clothes, my computer, a few books, some music, my futon, and my cat.

    About 15 years ago, I moved to another state… With the same essential things: clothes, computer, some books, CDs, my futon, and my cat. (This was pre-Napster.)

    Each time, I took only the beloved and the essential. Now I have a house, so there’s a toolbox, but thanks to digitization and miniaturization, it’s a laptop, a handful of hiking guides, and no CDs. A few more pieces of furniture, but it all fit into the smallest moving truck comfortably.

    My big tip is not to buy anything for your new residence until you’ve been there and determined there is a real need. I almost bought a small dresser before this move, but it turns out that it wasn’t necessary. My underwear and pajamas live happily in a bin on a shelf in a closet, instead.

  • Two years ago this month, we relocated 1168 miles from PA to AL with a dog and 3 cats in tow, driving two cars and it took 2 days. It was one of the top 3 hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. All our possessions were packed floor to ceiling in a 26 foot moving truck which arrived a day after we did. We had decluttered and deowned as much as we could in the three years prior to the move. We went from a 3000 square foot house to an 1100 square foot house. We lived there for a year and then made another local move to a 1700 sq foot house which suits us much better. We hope this is our last home, but something tells me it may not be. Minimalism is still my goal. We have pared down a lot and for the most part, the living areas and bedrooms of our home are free from clutter. But I have an office that I use for online reselling so I have inventory in there and my hubby has a workshop full of parts for his artistic creations. We try and keep those areas as organized as possible. If we do move again it will be when we’re retired so we won’t have to take our work stuff with us.

  • Jayne

    It’s wonderful to see a post from you. Do you think they’ll be more regular in the future? Or maybe there is another book in the pipeline?

    We’re moving at the moment and I’ve got ‘The Joy of Less’ on hand as a constant source of inspiration. Thanks for the wise words!

    • miss minimalist

      Yes, there is a new book in the pipeline! I’m devoting the summer to Plumblossom, but when she starts preschool FT this fall I may actually make some progress.

      • Kathy

        Yay, I can’t wait for a new book!!!! I have the Kindle version of your book & collection of blog posts but if they were paper, they’d be worn out as I’ve reread them so many times. I find them relaxing.

        I love moving & while we’ve gotten rid of so much, every time we move I find more to get rid of. Our last big move, we moved to a fully furnished house provided by my husband’s job. We sold almost all our furniture & appliances & it was wonderful! However, the job wound up lasting only 3 months & we found ourselves homeless. We finally have a rented place but I had sold everything so cheap & to re-buy everything cost so much more & there was no money by that time. We’ve managed though & things have picked back up. I know there are at least a couple more moves in our future–I guess 26 just hasn’t been enough. :-)

  • Suzanne

    We did this last year moving across country! We ditched all of the furniture (wouldn’t have fit anyway) and got down to one pod and what fit in our cars. We flew out and furnished the place before we moved so when we showed up – hot, tired and exhausted after the drive – we could be comfortable quickly. We gave away tons of stuff – tons – and as I unpacked – we gave away more (why did I move this???). And as we settle in – more is going too. Not only do I not regret giving away everything – I don’t even remember what 99% of it was!

  • Anne S.

    I love to move too! Although I am somebody who loves putting down roots and the comfort of a home you are familiar with and love, but nothing beats the high of purging and moving forces you to take a good look at your stuff. Plus, a new place brings about a feeling of starting over, like perhaps this will be the place you start making all your meals from scratch, or letting go of tasks that burdened you from the last place. Good luck and I hope you keep us posted on this new adventure!

    • Karen T.

      Hi Anne! I totally agree with you — it’s the “fresh start” feeling of moving that I love. When our kids were still living with us, my husband and I owned a house, but now that we are empty nesters we are totally enjoying apartment life, partly because we are freer to move if and when we want to. Now, I enjoy my stuff — books, some artwork, most of my furniture — and I’ve pared down and pared down already. BUT, I love to imagine living with even less, and the next time we move I’ll enjoy choosing to keep only the best and most useful.

  • Laine

    Where’s your new basecamp, Francine? Hearing you talk of the fondness that you have for your new city is intriguing as I’m in search of my new landing pad these days as well, and it’s rather confusing the heck out of me.

    I may be in the same camp as you, making a move every year, as I’ve only been in Austin a year and I feel ready to depart, but with fondness for the area.

    I have a 1968 Airstream named the Silver Whale and she’s been my means of living space, right up until, well she wasn’t! I made the decision in January to move into a house with my partner and bought some furniture that while not terribly expensive, I’m extremely fond of now. One is Purple Couch. Think “Prince.” It’s awesome.

    Now, having only owned Purple Couch, as well as many other “new” non-Whale admissible possessions for maybe 5 months, I’m wanting to retreat back into the Whale, and make another move, things having not worked out in the house… but I still want Purple Couch!! It’s a little silly.

    And I guess I basically did a reverse minimalist thing by renting a house in the first place after being perfectly content living in an RV. But my life has never fully been sparse as I have much stuff back at my parents’ house, a haven for collections and all things “precious” and impermanent. LOL!

    Well, thank you for providing this space to weigh over my current situation, Miss Minimalist. :D

    Do people have fall-outs from relative minimalism like I had? And I’d really love to hear what new city you are calling “home-for-now.” :D

  • denise

    I moved 14 times in 20 years, twice across the country and never in the same state. The last stop was south of Atlanta and have been in that house for for 16 years. Half of those years I have been commuting to my job in Boca Raton, FL. and have a second place to live there during the week. My first 13 moves were paid for my the company I worked for. The movers would come in and pack everything and then unpack in the new location after living in a hotel for a few months. By the time we reached Atlanta I had at least 20 boxes of stuff from every move that had not been unpacked or unpacked then repacked because the contents were not needed. I could identify each location by the box labels and I just kept accumulating stuff I did not need. After the new job in Boca I went through all of the boxes and purged EVERYTHING! I will never use a moving company again and continue to purge to get rid of more useless stuff that accumulates when you live in two places.

    Francine, I am curious what city or area you landed in.


  • Kathy

    Yay, a post from you! I love to move also and we’ve done it around 30 times in 23 years of marriage, usually long distance moves. I have decluttered so much thanks to all those moves. There is still more I could do & I would love to get rid of a few more pieces of furniture but for some reason my husband is attached to them. Two moves ago was my favorite: we were moving to a fully furnished house with my husbands job. We sold almost all our furniture, except those pieces he’s attached to, and moved with clothes, dishes, toys, & necessities. Sadly the job only lasted 3 months, we were homeless a while & now that we’re finally in another place I had to replace the furniture. But it was a great move.

  • Like you, I have moved A LOT! This last move out of state, though, my husband and I decided that we will sell everything and only take what will fit in his 4-door sedan. Since we moved, we have had to purchase minimal things. We decided that we are not purchasing anything that can’t be folded up and put into his car. We bought two folding chairs for the living room, two portable mattresses, two reading lamps and a folding table with folding chairs to eat and work at. That’s it for furniture and we LOVE it!

  • We made a cross country move last summer/fall. We sold or gave away most of our possessions, sold our house, husband left job and we traveled for three months to find the new place we’d call home (only choosing based on inspiration). We ended up in the most magnificent corner of the US in Northwest Washington (moved from PA) and couldn’t be happier. Totally followed our hearts and don’t regret a single minute of the experience.

  • Rhiannon

    when I left my mother’s house at 16 I had about 20 minutes to pack. I am sure you can imagine what little I could bring and honestly, I threw most of it out within the first month. When I left college, I got rid of a ton of stuff but was still hauling a lot. After I got married, I moved across the country and again could only bring what I could fit in my car. I had to purge everything. Thankfully my brother and sister in law had just moved back into the country with 2 kids and one on the way. They needed EVERYTHING. In true moving fashion, I ended up getting rid of most of what precious little I had brought with me pretty quick. When we moved yet again, from California to the Portland area, we got rid of most of our stuff. We kept a lot of baby stuff, but we purge it pretty regularly when our baby out grows it. All told, I lived in 6 places in 5 years. Each move came with a purge of stuff. Where does it all come from?

  • Kathie

    I have not made a long-distance move, but I do fantasize about it. I’ve been steadily decluttering since I found you and your books 3 1/2 years ago, Francine. I’m just now getting to the point where the rooms in my home are starting to look bare–and I love it. I feel peaceful and rested. I have time to do the things I never thought I had time to do, but I can still get to my to-do list too. Thank you so much, Francine! You’ve helped me tremendously.

  • Susan

    You are always truly inspiring, thank you for this post! I am longing to move, but it feels overwhelming because we get bogged down in talking about finances and what to do to the house to make it sell. I am more minimalist than my husband and would like to just go!

  • I’m so glad you kept some of your belongings – for your daughter’s sake. When my girls were young and we would go shopping, they were always so excited to point out things that matched what we had at home. “We have that book!” or “that girl is wearing the same dress I have!!”. It used to drive me crazy, because we were there to buy stuff, not to play a matching game! But reading your post made me think about it again and I’m sure that we are created to have some sentiment for the familiar, and that even what seems to us to be meaningless objects can make kids feel safe and secure. As an adult, I love returning from a vacation to my own furniture and surroundings. The challenge, of course is to keep the number of those objects small! On the flip side, I’ve often dreamt of starting fresh, so can see the appeal of that, also. Interesting post, and I love reading the weekly stories.

  • Cathy

    My fantasy is to be able to pack my house in 3 days. I think I’m getting close; now to find someplace to move to!

    When my son & his family moved back to the area, we arrived to help unload the U Hauls. I about fainted when 2 21 foot U Hauls arrive, packed to the gills with….stuff. It took forever to unpack. I left before I had to start finding a place for everything. I’m so glad that’s not my life style anymore.

  • Dawn

    My husband and I just moved to California (talk about “yikes” with the real estate). Unfortunately we did not declutter before we left and now we will be looking at 1/3 the size of our old house. One thing I did bring with me was your book. Guess I better start reading:)

  • Agilborder

    Well, it’s been a fantastic year after our downsize from a giant house in CO stuffed with all the stuff of 30 years. We love our new life, in CA, but the reality is, we still brought too much! So listen to this great adviice in this post…it is expensive to move…very expensive …so love it or leave it before wasting all that money and packing and unpacking time!

    We got to the new house, unpacked, put all our sifted but ” had to have” possessions out and went “holy, moly why did we bring all this stuff! So we boxed it up and left it boxed for the rest of the year. We never opened the boxes, so they got donated a few weeks ago. I have the feeling we will continue to pare. The house looks better every day. Easier to keep clean, easier on the eye.

    So do it! Do it now and really pare it down before the move. You chose your new home, so don’t stuff it with a bunch of old stuff. Take the basics, that is what we are down to and it is great! We get out and do so much because our home just is easier to care for. And when at home, there is space to breathe and just enjoy our life. Minimalism really works and really soothes.
    Best of luck to all you movers!

  • Arja

    A few months ago, my daughter, our two cats, and I moved from the Gulf coast to the West coast, downsizing from a three bedroom, two bath, two car garage suburban house to a 550 sq. ft. apartment in a high rise. Decluttering 25+ years of accumulation took several months and many car and truck loads of donations. Books and media were downsized by about 75%. After we had finished selling or donating most of our furniture (down from 40+ pieces to 10), shipping the remaining furniture and 42 boxes (half of which contained art work and art supplies), I put the house on the market. The four of us traveled slowly across the west with everything we needed for several weeks in our one remaining small car.

    After the move, we acquired beds, a small couch, kitchen table, a small chest, and three shelves. We donated an additional carload of things that did not suit the new place as well as downsizing books and media by another 50%. Since there is only one small closet and very limited kitchen cabinetry, we had to get creative with storage. Brightly colored folding cloth storage cubes hold electronics accessories, office and art supplies, tools, and clothes. Suitcases hold out of season clothing. Under bed storage holds additional art supplies and art work not currently displayed. Cleaning and cat supplies occupy under sink storage. Broom, mop, and step ladder fit next to the washer/dryer stack and pet carriers are stacked on top of them. A cedar chest holds linens and towels and doubles as kitchen seating. High ceilings, a large window, and minimal furnishings allow the apartment to retain an open, uncrowded feel.

  • Rose

    My 20s involved moving 13 times in 10 years… Part of that time was spent in dorm rooms, sublet rooms in tiny NYC apartments, and later lusciously bare apartments shared with a cat and on occasional roommate. Twice I moved from the pacific coast to the atlantic coast with only mailed boxes of my “stuff” and my suitcase. I have learned to survive well with little, despite cooking from scratch always and having multiple hobbies around reading and the arts. We really need very little at all ages and stages of life.

  • Heather

    I have move 18 times since turning 18, so that is about 1x every 2 years. Texas is finally our landing place BUT I still live minimal. Last move, we rented the smallest moving van they had and still only filled maybe 2/3 of it and that included a motorcycle. :)

    As I have gotten older, the past 2-3 moves have been easiest because I have learned not to accumulate when we do land somewhere and to be ruthless when moving. This last time, it took us maybe 3 days to pack up, 3 hours to load the truck completely. It was AWESOME and I will never forget that feeling. The only thing that took us a moment on the receiving end was never having seen the apartment we moved into before hand. I had to take a minute to figure out a came plan but it only took us 2 hours to unload.

    I love living simple/minimal. I would not have it any other way.

    • Heather

      I wanted to add, with our son, we always gave him a small tote bin to put his toys in. Whatever did not fit, we donated. He has ALWAYS saved his Legos, some books, his radio and his drawing stuff and it’s always the odds and ends that get donated. Funny huh???

  • I love this, Francine! As you know, we moved two years ago, from one coast to the other (vertically, rather than horizontally!). We spent 3 months emptying out our house then, and used a station wagon and small u-haul. Last summer, when we moved from the apartment to the boat, we spent a day throwing everything in the dumpster and took whatever our station wagon could carry. This summer we are moving again, to a slightly larger boat! No cars will be involved, just a marina cart. It gets easier the more you do it, even with a kid!

  • Anna

    We have moved about 20+ times, the furthest being about 18000km from Scotland to New Zealand, and then a few years back from New Zealand to the UK. Both times with car, child, 2 dogs and a cat. Best advice would be to get someone else to do the packing and removals for you. Second piece of advice is to start sorting out your stuff asap. Give unwanted things to friends or charity shops. Both times took 10-12 weeks for our stuff to arrive, so living in an empty house sleeping on air bed, no TV etc for that long. Last time we moved we did it ourselves over a couple of weeks as we had both places. most exhausting move ever!

  • I love this checklist! Our family has moved overseas (and home again) several times as on-off expats. It is probably one of the things that has inspired my love of minimalism – knowing it is possible to live with less and also knowing how crazy it is to pay for storage (or worse, paying for postage) for stuff you don’t even use.

  • Tina

    The only long distance move I made was when I finished college and shipped 3 boxes of stuff to another state at my future employer’s expense. I had lived in a furnished apartment and bought a few new pieces when I got settled in. I had a 1 bedroom apt. In the big city, and I was so excited.

  • Diane

    My dad was a career U.S. Marine so we traveled in any direction every three years. I KNOW about moving, and changing schools. Dad moved everything with us over and over. Now Dad has passed away, my husband passed away and guess who is still sorting through 60 years of stuff? Me! Now that I am a widow ready to start a new life I am stuck with stuff everywhere.
    I was working on seriously downsizing for years before Dad and my husband died. I thought I was making progress. They say you get each lesson over and over until you learn it. I guess I didn’t learn enough the first time.
    Now I could part with everything, except a few well chosen heirlooms, my dog and a few favorite clothes. I think my SUV will be the right size.

  • Catherine

    Thank-you Francine for your recent moving story. I have just listed my house for sale and will be moving from the middle of Canada (the Prairies) to an Island off of the West Coast. I will be taking pictures of my stuff and plan to let go of 75% of it. Although I am moving to a large 1 level home I want to stay true to my vision of creating a spa-like relaxing environment. The past chapters of my life involved a difficult childhood, an exhausting career, years of single parenting, and 23 plus moves. Time for a spa home minus the stuff of my past. A picture book of everything I let go of will be perfect. I will comment again when I am there. Have I got work to do!

    • Lorraine

      Catherine, I can so relate to your experience. At retirement (which is soon) I will be moving from Ontario to Vancouver. My past chapters involve a difficult childhood, an exhaustive career and a disappointing marriage that ended in divorce. I was originally going to take with me dishes, wall decor and vases that were given to me by my mother and grandmothers but I’m rethinking and will probably sell it all and only take clothing. I’ve reach the point where I realize that I don’t need stuff to remember these loving women — my experiences with them remain in my heart. I too want to create a spa-like environment in my new home. Best of luck to you!

    • Lorraine

      I’m a different “Lorraine” from the one further above.

    • Kathy

      Good luck! Your spa home sounds wonderful & sounds like just what I have in mind for my future dream home. A small, very open, airy home with a spa feel!

  • Kit

    So pleased to hear your voice again Francine. Good luck settling in on a new coast.

    We’re considering a move from the south-east of England up to Scotland, so this provides some timely advice. It also led to my partner clearing through his wardrobe and another 7 books ending up on the donate pile.

    I have also embarked on the slightly arduous task of copying our remaining DVDs to a media server (built by the aforementioned partner) so that we can ditch the physical versions once and for all. I’m being quite ruthless and not bothering with anything that appears on a streaming service. I can’t wait for the day where you can stream anything, anywhere.

  • Jennifer

    Hey, where’s Bob Lupton — he’s been crying out for Francine in two of these blogspots and now he is silenced?

  • Kelly

    I have moved 24 times in 57 years (3 times were with my parents before the age of 18)and have sold some things and bought a few things. My next move at retirement will consist of one carry-on suitcase and two to be checked (to contain clothings and a few things I can’t live without). All the furniture will be sold (I’ve even started selling some now). Looking forward to starting elsewhere and being more selective as to what furniture I actually need.

  • diane

    Oh, how I love seeing a new post from you!! What an inspiring life you live. Just what I needed to read, thank you so much!! Please write another book!

  • Thanks for sharing, Francine, although I’m totally intrigued to know where you landed! We just moved last week cross-country with a 4 year old, 1 year old, two dogs, and all of our possessions in a 6’x 12′ Uhaul trailer pulled by our 4Runner.

    Yes, you totally read that correctly–every item in the world that we own fit into that tiny trailer, and we also put nothing extra in our actual vehicle besides 1 duffle bag (for our whole family) to use overnight at a hotel.

    It’s taken us many years to get to this point, but downsizing the few months beforehand in preparation was so freeing! We posted an online garage sale through instagram, sold a few things through Craigslist, and donated the rest. My husband insists we can go even smaller for the next move. Ha!

    Since we’ve moved to our new place I have not unpacked the majority of my daughters’ toys. We’ve been having so much fun exploring our new town that they haven’t even noticed!

    • diane

      Kate–your adventure sounds amazing–briefly looked at your blog and am looking forward to checking it out further–what fun!!

    • miss minimalist

      Wow, Kate, a long-distance road trip with two little ones! I don’t know how you did it, but you have my utmost respect. Looking forward to following your blog. I’ve hardly unpacked any of Plumblossom’s toys, either, and she couldn’t care less–in fact, she can’t stand to be in the apartment, and is constantly asking me “where are we going next?” Fortunately, we have parks, playgrounds, bakeries, coffee shops, book stores, libraries, restaurants, etc all within walking distance, so every day is a new adventure for her. :)

  • So pleased you have found somewhere that you really like and that speaks of “home” to you. We recently moved (twice in less than a year!) and found the process so much easier because we had downsized so much for the first move. We were lucky enough to have movers who packed our stuff for us as part of the moving agreement. Although they were two hours late (problems with the van) they were able to pack us up, move us and unpack again within a very short space of time. It was very stress free. One thing I have found that helps is having simple beds without bedheads or foot pieces. They don’t have to be dismantled and put together at the other end. Also useful to have a small table that can easily be taken through doorways and upstairs. We also feel so at home here that we are not planning to move again – ever! But we keep a sharp eye on what comes in and what goes out – a very good habit learnt over the years. Although we downsized, a lot of charity shops in our new town have benefited from our move! Francine, do keep us up to date with the move, where you end up and whether you are still in love with your new town. Very best wishes, Frances.

    • Anna

      Ah, but the pain of putting together a 150 year old French bed is completely forgotten by being able to appreciate its beauty everyday….

  • Sara

    I’ve moved 16 times in my life so far (I’m in my forties). Not surprising to me, since I always loved to move..until it got to be too tiring. For now. I feel pretty certain we’re staying put for some more years now due to practical matters, which is a relief after uprooting my life – then our lives – so many times before. So no long- or short-distance moves in the near future for us, but it’s always an interesting topic and it’s good to hear from you, Francine. I agree that you have to follow your heart. And your new environment sounds lovely, judging by your reactions to it!

    If we were to move some time soon, it would be a pain. We clearly have more stuff now than we did a couple of years ago and even though I haven’t given up on minimalism, I guess you could say we like our creature comforts at the moment (a relative term, since we continue to have far less of those than most of our peers and relatives). I still declutter regularly. and things like books haven’t dared gather at our home in any large quantities for years now. :D We mostly use the library and donate those few we buy after reading them. I mention books, since they were the most difficult for us.

    I think I’d feel differently about a long-distance than a short-distance move now; I’d get rid of all but the absolutely necessary and dear and mostly start over. And hopefully I wouldn’t be alone in making this decision, so if I had opposition, I’d halve and discuss and then aim to halve again. ;)

  • Jean

    Whoah . . . I did a double-take. This looks like a page from my own journal:

    Cross-country move
    House put on market & sold within 3 weeks
    East coast to west coast = 3,000
    No job – upon arrival
    No friends – upon arrival
    No housing – upon arrival
    Friends, family and I questioned sanity of the decision

    I’m guessing you’ve landed somewhere in the PNW from the enchantment you speak about. I also enjoy moving and change, particularly when that inner voice speaks, “Go!” Four years ago, I left one coast for another after downsizing everything to fit in my small truck. Everything just seemed to fall into place in the most interesting ways. The cost of real estate has indeed climbed drastically here in the last 2 years. It’s been an amazing adventure. :-)

  • miss minimalist

    Thanks to everyone for all your kind words and stories! I’m in the PNW and absolutely loving it. No more “grass is greener” mentality, I’m (finally) perfectly content where I am.

  • Love hearing you’re content, Francine. :)

    After reading everyone’s moving stories, I’m happy to know that I could pack, move & unpack within a few hrs. Really I could pack up in an hr or two if I needed to. Either everything would fit into my car or I’d possibly ship a box or two if flying somewhere. Though I could give up most things easily. I have very few essentials. Not cooking & eating raw, allows me to need very little kitchenware. I own little furniture, which would be left behind. If there’s time, other stuff would be given away or sold. Though there really isn’t a whole lot of those things. Having moved over 20 times (mostly local & much less in the more recent yrs), my next move will be the easiest of all. Considering I dislike moving, this will make the whole process much less stressful.

  • This is so timely. We are moving from the East Coast to West Coat in less than 2 years after my husband retires. We will have been in this house for 20 years and are contemplating not taking much with us. The move here was paid for by his employer so was a very different situation as we had a teenager with us too.

  • Sophie

    Hello Francine, I have been following your blog for a few years and followed your advice, when we moved from the US to Europe last year. We means me, my husband, a 8 months old and a dog. We still had 6 suitcases and carry on, but no container. We shipped 3 boxes with books and small furniture. We sold and gave away almost everything we owned.

    The process of purging was very easy for me, not for my husband. But it took me more than a year to start feeling home again. I don’t know if familiar stuff would have made it easier though. I am not missing particular things, it is more a feeling of “homesickness “.

    Thank you for your blog!

  • Tina

    You always inspire me to keep decluttering and getting rid of more things. I am still doing a bag or two every week between all the places I donate stuff. I loved that you who were already a minimalist got rid of 75 0/0 of your stuff. I am trying just to keep the surfaces clean.

  • Tina

    We moved from a house to a condo 13 years ago and got rid of a ton of stuff. I can’t even remember all the stuff we tossed or gave away. I was talking to a friend with a much bigger house who wants to downsize and I told her to get rid of half her stuff right off. She has more furniture than I’ve ever had and many more keepsakes.

  • Tina

    We have been in our condo for 13 years. We have the smallest place of anyone we know. I am thinking of getting rid of a lot more stuff because it is harder to climb to the highest shelves and get into the lowest cabinets. I have sets of 12 dishes I would like to cut to 8 and wine glasses I wish my kids would take.

  • Dylan

    The “high walkability score” areas in the U.S. are extremely expensive. I live in San Francisco and if I didn’t own my house, I would be using almost half my take-home income on rent! The current rent on a one-bedroom in this town goes for upwards of 3,500$ a month and it shows no indication of stopping there. Rent control units are disappearing as builders are on a spree here building high rise housing, which I assume will not decrease the cost of rents, as hipsters will snap these up immediately. What it does, however, is decrease the amount of available rent controlled units for lower income workers.

    The worst thing to happen to San Francisco was the tech boom. But maybe there’s a bubble in our future.

  • Like your guide! Decluttering awaits me, because I’m moving cross country in few months. Your ‘halve stuff’ and ‘halve it again’ is a great strategy and I’m definitely doing it right away. Thanks for the ideas!

  • Excellent job nailing down the steps involved. I agree with you on all of those points. Having moved to 9 different states myself, I can guarantee the experience does not come without stress. In fact, I am getting ready to move on again myself.

    I am intrigue by the idea of moving overseas and often wondered about moving back into the country. Hopefully you have some posts here about this? (I only recently discovered your site today and look forward to reading more.)

  • Patty

    We released a ‘poot-ton’ of stuff when we moved from a three story house where the basement was full of the estates of 2 family members. Auctioned, donated, Craigslisted and ebayed, pawned off on family and neighbors, garage-saled, etc. GAAAA!!! TOOOOOOO Much Crap. Moving is a fine way to force yourself to downsize.

  • Tina

    A cousin gave me a beautiful set of dishes. They are huge. I am keeping what I can use and passing on the rest. I think if I were to move, I would take very little because most of my furniture is from Ikea or garage sales. I would give my kids whatever they want and give away the rest.

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